Friday, July 13, 2018

"A Defense of Honor" by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor, #1)
Forced to run for her life, Kit FitzGilbert finds herself in the very place she swore never to return to--a London ballroom. There she encounters Lord Graham Wharton, who believes Kit holds the key to a mystery he's trying to solve. As much as she wishes that she could tell him everything, she can't reveal the truth without endangering those she loves.

Ever since A Noble Masquerade, I have expected great things from this author, and goodness, if she hasn't surpassed expectations! It has all the humor and touching message I expected, but the story is so tender, so compassionate toward and passionate for unwed mothers and their children. I confess my eyes were not quite dry on more than one occasion.

Graham is completely charming: smart, funny, compassionate, and great with kids. Utterly adorable. Kit, on the other hand, is more complex and ever so human. I worried she would be pretty hardened, given her blackmailing and guilt, but there is still softness to her. And who doesn't try to control their own lives? It's really hard to let go of control and trust that God has your back, especially when evidence of hardship and pain is all around you. I liked her a lot, and it was so wonderful to see her transformation when she finally lets go and embraces the freedom of trusting God when everything else seems to be falling apart around her.

I loved that Jess from the Hawthorne House books made her way to Haven Manor. I hope--no, I expect! one of the upcoming books will be devoted to her so we finally get her whole story. It will be a good one.

This is Christian fiction at its best.

Thank you Bethany House for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Haven Manor
0.5: "A Search for Refuge" (free prequel e-novella)
1. A Defense of Honor
2. A Return of Devotion (February 2018)

Monday, July 9, 2018

"The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond" by Jaime Jo Wright - delightfully eerie

The Reckoning at Gossamer PondWhen Annalise Forsythe unexpectedly inherits the dilapidated trailer from an old recluse, it's a shock to everyone that it is filled with pictures of her--even pictures from the hidden, secret part of her life. Along with those photos are clippings, photographs, and obituaries from a century before: obituaries that had been delivered to the news office where Libby Sheffield worked hours before the subject had even died . . . As Annalise delves into Gossamer Grove's dark history from the present and Libby works to unravel the mystery from past, both young women find themselves in danger from those who don't want the secrets of Gossamer Grove's inhabitants revealed.

I'm not a fan of horror stories, but I do enjoy the occasional eerie, Gothic-style tale, and this book was marvelous. I loved the premise of the obituary arriving before the death takes place. It's a sign of a good dual timeline book that neither the past nor the present story overwhelms the other; I was constantly hooked on whichever timeline I was reading at the time, which is definitely not always the case in this style of book. I did like the plot of the past timeline a little better (it's that Gothic thing), but the highly emotional relationship development of the present balanced it out. Equally captivating, just in different ways.

There is a lot of depth to both stories, and they are heavy with themes of guilt, grace, and forgiveness, but instead of slowing down the suspense of the story, they add to it, being so intimately entwined with the characters and the dangers they are facing.

Hats off to the author for developing such a complex, well thought-out tale; I don't know how she kept track of details to keep the mystery(ies) so well balanced between the two timelines, peeling them back layer after layer until all connections are revealed, but it was impressive.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the complimentary e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"The Hope of Azure Springs" by Rachel Fordham - a tender story of love and loss

The Hope of Azure SpringsFound half-dead after her guardian is murdered, Em is thankful to be taken in and cared for by a kind family, but her heart yearns to find her sister, separated on the orphan train seven years before. Sheriff Caleb Reynolds hates a puzzle he can't solve, and Em is one. With her help, he plans to track down the murderers, but not even he can anticipate the effect the strange young woman will have on his heart.

One of the best (and worst) things about reading a book by a new author is that you have no idea what to expect. There was more danger and excitement than I would have pegged from reading the back cover copy, with sprinkles of humor and fun, but my overall impression is one of overwhelming tenderness. There is a lot of loss in the book (though most happen before the story actually takes place), and grief to go with those losses. But, most important, there is healing.

I really enjoyed Em and came to love Caleb more as he learned to appreciate her. I still sometimes wanted to wallop him over the head for being slow, but I loved the message that he receives--that beauty is not dependent on outward appearance. And how we perceive outward appearance can change based on how we feel about the person inside. The ending was more bittersweet than I expected, but it was good--quite possibly better for it. I will gladly read more books by this author in future!

Thank you Revell for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, July 2, 2018

NEW Christian Fiction July 2018!

For July we have a couple historical novels, including one by a new-to-me author (Rachel Fordham), a dual timeline dark suspense, and the final book to Dani Pettrey's suspense series, Chesapeake Valor.

The Hope of Azure Springs Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain, #1) The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond
The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham (Revell)

Orphaned and alone again after riding the orphan train out west seven years ago, a young woman begins her search for her long-lost sister.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof (Thomas Nelson); Blackbird mountain, book 1

A widow immigrates to Appalachia to take care of her husband's cousins, only to discover they are three grown men in search wives.

The Reckoning on Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright (Bethany House)

Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor, #4)In the present, a young woman inherits a murdered man's run-down trailer full of old clippings and dark secrets, while a century earlier, a different young woman at the newspaper office begins receiving obituaries hours before the deaths occur.

Dead Drift by Dain Pettrey (Bethany House); Chesapeake Valor, book 4

A private investigator and the man she never stopped loving must work together to stop a biological disaster from decimating the country.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Joanne Bischof's "Sons of Blackbird Mountain"

Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain, #1)When Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to become a housekeeper to her dead husband's kin in Appalachia, she is expecting to care for three young boys, not three grown men. While Aven finds a brother in the eldest and friendship with youngest, it is Thor, isolated by his deafness and addicted to the fruits of his craft, that tugs at her heart. But the fight to sobriety is a hard one, as Aven has seen and Thor has experienced.

This was a beautiful love story. Heart-wrenching at times, and a bit bittersweet, but very tender and moving.

I loved how the author was able to convey a deaf character so well, both in how Thor communicates and his frustrations in not being able to always understand and be understood, even amongst those who know him best. And it's made all the harder with alcoholism and the process of breaking that addiction.

The brotherly love--and rivalry--is also very well done. Their relationships are complex, especially as Aven comes between Thor and Haakon, while Jorgen tries to be supportive and keep the peace. It's really easy to root for Thor, who desperately wants to change, but knows all too well the pain of failure. Haakon definitely has some growing up to do. I wouldn't call his gesture at the end redeeming, but at least he makes an expression of his love and regret, imperfect though it is. I'm glad to see Haakon will have his chance at true redemption in the sequel!

Aven is altogether a lovely character; I loved that she makes an effort to communicate with Thor, to get over the awkwardness of not knowing how to deal with a deaf person. And it is awkward at first, but she is good at looking past man's outward appearance and instead looking at the heart. Pretty much the entire secondary cast was spectacular; I especially loved the bravery shown by certain ones in spite of ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Blackbird Mountain
1. Sons of Blackbird Mountain
2. Daughters of Northern Shores (March 2019)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cathy Marie Hake's "Letter Perfect"

Letter Perfect (California Historical, #1)Ruth Caldwell always has the best of intentions in whatever she does, no matter many finishing schools she's been kicked out of. When she is handed off the stage into Josh McCain's hands, he's astounded first by her beauty, and then aghast when he discovers she has a legitimate claim to half his ranch. Though he's worked hard to bring the ranch to where it is, he knows he has to do the honorable thing, so he offers her shelter in his home. Ruth certainly livens up the ranch and makes instant friends his lonely sister, but when her accidents go beyond her usual bumbling to something potentially sinister, Josh has to decide where his loyalties lie.

I'm pretty sure this is the fourth time I've read this book, and I still love it.

Sweet, lively, and accident-prone, Ruth is such a fun heroine. She knows how to laugh at herself, and she's never down for long. I love how she embraces Laney as her best friend. Their friendship is another part of what makes the book great, as they each build the other up and encourage each other. At the same time, I also really appreciate their relationship with Mrs. O'Sullivan, who is a wonderful, Godly mentor to them, fulfilling the biblical admonishment for older women to teach the younger.

Ruth and Josh's relationship develops beautifully, first into friendship and then into love, as they each observe God-honoring attributes in the other. I love the humor and also the bits of wisdom that Hake slips in throughout the story. It's one of my favorites!

California Historicals
1. Letter Perfect
2. Bittersweet

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"A Daring Venture" by Elizabeth Camden - fascinating historical controversy

A Daring Venture (Empire State, #2)Rosalind Warner has made it her life's work to eradicate water-borne diseases, while Nickolas Drake, new Commissioner of Water for New York, has fought his whole life to bring water to even the poorest tenements of Manhattan. However, the two land on opposite sides of a lawsuit involving water filtration. Rosalind's new technology could mean safe water for New York, but in spite of his attraction to the scientist, Nick is unconvinced by her arguments. But not even Nick can stand aside when someone systematically sets out to destroy Rosalind.

One thing I can always count on in opening up a book by Elizabeth Camden, it will be so much more than I expect; there will be twists and turns such that the plot will end up in a totally different place than the book blurb implies, and I love it. (Not to call the blurb inaccurate--it isn't. The story is just so much more than the blurb.) While this is far from the most faith-filled of her novels, it is a fascinating story, full of controversy that's not unlike what we go through today with modern strides in science.

The title is apt--it truly was a daring venture to chlorinate the water system in the middle of a lawsuit and without permission (a historically accurate portion of the story, even if Rosalind and Nick are fictional). On the one hand, it's easy to approve of the chlorination project knowing what we do now and having a century of successful chlorination history. Rosalind was right that something had to be done to eliminate deadly water-borne disease that was so prevalent up until chlorination. But on the other hand, like Nick, I wouldn't have wanted my family to be the lab rats in testing the long-term consequences of chlorination, not when it was new. And I really wouldn't have been happy to find out it had been done without my knowledge and without giving me a choice in the matter; it's a major betrayal of trust. In this case it all worked out, but I'm not convinced they did right in going about it in secret.

I have never seen an author to compare with Elizabeth Camden for putting two people on opposite sides of an issue and having them both be right; it makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

For the record, it's not all science and politics; besides a roller coaster of a romance, there's also a strong tie with the previous book in the Drake family issues that make for some additional suspense. I appreciated Nick's attempts to reconcile the families, and his ability to show compassion to someone who didn't deserve it. And I like the glimpse of where the next book in the series is going, and how Nick's job (and subsequent actions) in this story will have such an impact on the next.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the complimentary e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Empire State
1. A Dangerous Legacy
2. A Daring Venture
3. A Desperate Hope (February 2019)